I wrote my first book when I was ten and in seventh grade.
It starred a ten year old female character who ran off to join the circus. I even drew and colored the pictures of what I’d imagined a circus would be like. And stapled the edges so the lined paper looked like a real book. Inspired by my first “publication”, I decided to launch a neighborhood newsletter, that I would photocopy on that newfangled machine in the library that spit out a curly, hot, yellowed image of what I’d written--for the mere price of a cup of coffee. The Bethesda Bulletin actually made it to its third issue—not bad for the magazine industry, yes?
I was fortunate to attend a public school that was both diverse and well-funded. I learned to write well from my English teacher Miss Casey, who epitomized the trope of the spinster with her black dress, clunky oxfords, and hair in a bun. Miss Casey had been a teacher since the Jurassic Era, we whispered, and was certainly over a hundred years old. Her old-school methods taught us the foundation on which we could build with our creativity. Many years later, as a published author of essays, newspaper columns, novels, and non-fiction books, I wished I’d had the opportunity to thank her for providing me with the framework on which I could sprinkle the imagination gifted to me by my fantasist mother and my science fiction fan father—but I was certain that as I was myself now middle aged, Miss Casey would be long gone. In the pre-Google days a decade ago, it took a note from our high school alumni committee to let me know that Miss Casey had only just passed away, in her eighties. Had she really been middle-aged rather than ancient when I’d been in high school years ago? Oh, my. Thank you, Miss Casey, if you can hear me from up there in the Theological Division.
My mother had always wanted to be a doctor like her younger sister, and encouraged me to study medicine after I won a scholarship to perform undergraduate research at the National Institutes of Health. But I was also tempted by the lure of journalism and broadcasting, fueled by my tenure as a cub reporter at the second national Star Trek convention in New York City in 1973, where I’d chased Leonard Nimoy into an elevator for an interview, and sat on my mutton-chopped idol Isaac Asimov’s lap soon after he’d published the humorous tome, “The Sensuous Dirty Old Man”. I paired my pre-med classes with courses in screenwriting and TV production, and served as an anchor for our campus TV news and a DJ for our campus radio station, covering one story next to a very young local news reporter named Connie Chung. I even served as a floor director when our campus was visited by Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show sidekick, managing to embarrass myself by stretching my arm out to give him a cue and ripping open a seam of the too-small dress I’d outgrown.
At the age of 19, I’d scored both my acceptance to medical school at Georgetown, and a weekend gig as the first female top 40 DJ in Washington DC, which garnered me my moniker as “The Doc around the Rock”. My writing during these years was limited to news stories and comedy bits, but my imagination still carried me into space, fantasizing that I was both a secret agent and a space traveler sharing exciting virtual adventures with my trusty imaginary companion, a younger version of my beloved Sherlock Holmes. With the responsibilities of my studies, these adventures were soon put on the back burner, only to be dusted off in adulthood as I began to write my science fiction trilogy, “The Zygan Emprise”, with its snarky and precocious protagonist, space agent Shiloh Rush.
To pay for medical school, I was awarded a scholarship by the US Navy, and was commissioned as an Ensign in the Naval Reserves. After graduation, I completed my residency in Pediatrics at Georgetown, and then served as an officer in the Medical Corps for four years, stationed at Quantico Marine Base and at Bethesda Naval Hospital. During my service at Bethesda, I had occasion to meet with physician-writer, Fitzhugh Mullan, who allowed me to interview him for a moving feature story in the Baltimore Sun. I continued to serve as a free-lancer for the Baltimore Sun, doing feature articles on my comedy idols, the Monty Python troupe, in Washington, New York, and London, and then sold some of my features and film reviews to other newspapers, magazines, and TV. Interested readers can find some of my essays capturing my experiences as a doctor-in-training and beyond in the archives of the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, as a Holmes aficionado, I embraced the wave of Sherlock Holmes pastiches such as “The Seven Percent Solution” that were coming out in the early 80’s, and I wanted to bring together my favorite characters of Holmes and Watson and the Star Trek TOS crew in a similar novel. My co-author, Mary Matthews, and I wrote our first draft of “Elementary, My Dear Spock”, and sent it through her agent to Pocket Books at Simon and Schuster, publisher of the Star Trek novelizations. The Senior Editor read and loved the book, and informed us it was accepted for publication with a projected launch date to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the first Holmes story in ‘The Strand’ and the release of the mega-hit movie Star Trek IV. Unfortunately, the new holder of the Holmes copyright, Dame Jean Conan Doyle decided that she didn’t want to authorize any more pastiches—even well-reviewed ones like ours, and the book was shelved. I have to confess that, sometimes, especially when I see the dozens of Holmes pastiches published in the past ten years, I pronounce the “Dame” in her name as “D__n”.
After spending evenings as an anchor for our local public access cable station, I caught the attention of Today show weatherman Willard Scott’s agent, who garnered me a contract with our local CBS affiliate to serve as a medical reporter and editor on the evening Eyewitness News. My pieces impressed the renowned Dr. Art Ulene, who hired me to work in Los Angeles for his company, Lifetime Medical Television, as soon as I received my Navy commendation and Honorable Discharge as a Lieutenant Commander. At Lifetime, I hosted, wrote, and produced a variety of medical programs for health professionals and for the interested public, disseminated via cable.
When Lifetime Medical Television moved their offices to the NY area, I, engaged to my future husband, a tenured professor in Southern California, resumed my dual professional path, working as a pediatrician at the Student Health Service at UCLA and as a staff writer for the TV Series, “Family Medical Center”. The Director of our Primary Care Division at Student Health happened to be award-winning physician-author, Dr. Deborah Shlian, whose novels ‘Wednesday’s Child’ and ‘Double Illusion’, co-authored with her MD husband Joel, I had thoroughly enjoyed reading. When Family Medical Center was cancelled, Deborah and I discussed working together on a new medical mystery thriller. Our collaboration blossomed, and, based on our experiences in higher education and university research and politics, as well as my background in radio and TV, we created our protagonist, Brooklyn-born, dynamic radio-talk-show-host and investigative reporter Sammy Greene, and placed her at an Ivy League University Campus as a fish-out-of water scenario that was very familiar to us. Dead Air finds Sammy investigating the deaths of a beloved professor and a talented music student, angering Campus Police Chief Gus Pappajohn, and stumbling onto a high-level conspiracy that could crack the foundations of the Ivory Tower and its research partners. If Sammy isn’t careful, she could be the next victim—and her radio talk show could be Dead Air. My own and my family’s experiences as Greek immigrants in the US seasoned the character of Gus Pappajohn, who becomes a reluctant collaborator with the effervescent Sammy in her quest to uncover the truth.
Dead Air, winner of the 2010 Royal Palm Literary Award for Best Thriller, was published by the wonderful folks at Oceanview Publishing in 2009. The success of Dead Air led us to continue Sammy’s adventures after graduation as a talk-show host/reporter in Los Angeles, where, battered by winds, fires, and murder, Sammy and Gus work together to stop an international plot that could threaten the lives of thousands of Angelenos. Devil Wind, winner of the 2011 Royal Palm Literary Award for Best Thriller, was published this past year by Oceanview Publishing.
Sammy and Gus are planning a journey to Greece for their next adventure. Meanwhile, my three teenage children, fans of young adult science fiction and fantasy, inspired me to finally pen “Renegade Paladins/Where Angels Fear To Tread”, winner of a 2010 Mensa Sharp Writ Book Award, and its 2011 sequel “Abyssal Redemption”, Books 1 and 2 of “The Zygan Emprise” series.
My parents, retired and ever eager to read my next books, have been wonderful resources for me as I create new characters and new worlds. My father, still working part-time at age 91 as an Emeritus scientist at NASA, serves as a willing scientific consultant for my space opera adventures, and my mother is always a wonderful touchstone for me as I endeavor to capture the humanity of my characters, even if—as in my sci-fi novels—they aren’t human. I am deeply grateful for their efforts to ensure that I always had a home that was not only loving, but safe; safe from the travails and terrors that they survived and conquered in the harsh worlds of their youth.
Whether as a physician or an author, I would never have become who I am today without their guidance, support, and love. I hope I can give back to them and to the world as much as they have given to me.
Linda Reid is a physician-writer whose work has been published in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Tribune International, Salon.com, Woman’s Day, Los Angeles Times, and numerous other newspapers, magazines, and web sites.
Linda was a staff writer for the TV series Family Medical Center, and has served as a medical editor and reporter for “Eyewitness News” of the CBS affiliate in Washington DC, Lifetime Medical Television, and a host of the NBC TV show “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.”
Linda started her broadcasting career as a DJ on Top 40 radio, and has worked as a consultant and guest for production companies and networks such as Lorimar Telepictures, CNN, and You-TV.
Dr. Reid is a board-certified pediatrician and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She was a founding member and Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Media Resource Team.
Dr. Reid, her husband, and her three teenage children live in Los Angeles.